Some founders aren’t content with innovating life on Earth, and instead decide to set their sights a bit higher — and they’ve caught investors’ attention in Europe. Spacetech startups in Europe drummed up around $3.6bn at their 2021 peak, before dropping to $2.1bn last year. In 2023, as of September, funding had dipped to $1.2bn — but with 35 exits, it’s not too far behind 2022’s benchmark of 39 across the whole year, and has already bested 2021’s figure of 34.
A handful of the sector’s startups are also their way to unicorn status and $1bn valuations — soonicorns in Sifted speak. Three of them are university spinouts, and two come from Germany’s Technical University of Munich.
Here’s who made the list, according to Dealroom valuation data. To be considered, companies had to be founded since 2005 with a valuation of at least $500m.
Rocket-maker Isar Aerospace, based in Germany, is a spinout from the Technical University of Munich that provides launch services for small and medium-sized satellites. It raised Europe’s biggest spacetech round in 2023 so far, with a $165m Series C closed in March and led by 7-Industries Holding. Earlybird, HV Capital and Lakestar were among the other investors. The company plans to send its first rocket to space by the end of the year.
ICEYE, based in Finland, builds satellites that offer monitoring capabilities in real-time for things like natural catastrophes such as floods and wildfires. It spun out of Aalto University in 2015 and has since raised around $302m in funding, according to Dealroom. Most recently, it closed a $136m Series D in February 2022 from investors including Molten Ventures, Seraphim Space and the British Business Bank.
Also from the Technical University of Munich, Kinexon is an IoT (internet of things) startup that offers technology like sensor networks, edge computing, plus a satellite navigation solution which uses GPS and physical trackers to help sports organisations analyse athlete performance in more detail and in real time. It raised a $130m Series A in April 2022 from Telekom Innovation Pool and US investors BMW i Ventures and Thomas H.Lee Partners.
French startup Kineis is making an IoT connectivity network using 25 nano satellites offering an alternative option in areas that aren’t well-covered by other communications networks. Common customers would include people on fishing, freight and other boats out in open sea, and agriculture companies looking to track animals across vast terrains. It raised €100m in 2020 from Bpifrance and BNP Paribas Développement.